Monday, April 27, 2009

Jon Stewart’s Interview with Budget Director Peter Orszag: Laugh while You Cry

Peter Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office. Getty Images.

In the May 4th issue of the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza’s piece on Jon Stewart’s back and forth with Obama’s budget director Peter Orszag would be funny if it were not so tragic. Lizza reveals Stewart’s cunning as despite Orszag’s intimidating resume, superior height, and pinstriped suit, he proceeds to flummox his guest in the numbers game

Stewart was not satisfied. “Is it hard to talk to someone who doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about?” he said. “Because I’m watching you calculate, like, ‘Am I gonna go second grade on this guy? Do I have to go seventh grade on this guy? How do I do this?’ ” He asked Orszag why the government didn’t just bail out borrowers who have defaulted. “The problem is, if you just focused on the people who defaulted you create this huge incentive to default,” Orszag replied. Stewart looked at Orszag with an astonished grin. Before Stewart could finish pointing out that the government is creating an equally huge incentive by bailing out the financial firms Orszag realized that he had been backed into a corner: “Yeah, none of this is perfect!”

Stewart responded with high-pitched laughter, seeming to suggest that if Obama’s budget director doesn’t know the answer to these questions we are all doomed.

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